- "Just back from my fabulous research trip to Paris/Florence/other European city, where I found oodles of new materials for my book in progress."
- "So glad I had that fellowship to Fabulous Domestic Archive!"
- "Excited to see the proofs for this article accepted for PMLA [or insert your flagship journal here]."
- "What a great family hiking vacation in the mountains/at the beach! No phones, just fun. Nothing like taking time completely away from work to recharge the brain."
- "Book proposal was accepted & now I'm under contract. Woohoo!"
- "Made so much progress on my book manuscript this summer that I'm turning it in early."
- "Completely revamped my syllabi/syllabuses and now I'm ready for the semester to begin."
- "Yay! Panel accepted for MLA this year, so see you in Seattle!"
Objectively you know you've knocked down a lot of things and crossed a lot of items off your list this summer. Subjectively, in your heart of hearts you know that this is obligation writing, low-hanging fruit that advances everyone's career but your own.
And if you're honest with yourself, you know you could have said "no" more, or put your own writing first; it's not the fault of other people or other tasks that you're not getting the writing done. They have to ask, but you don't have to say yes. Academia is an "ask culture," not a "guess culture," so you have to grow a spine and boldly say no. That time commitment you made rests with you.
So all I can do now is recommit to the writing, one day at a time or rather one half hour at a time, about the length of a pomodoro, and try, try again.